Partnerships, like most personal relationships, are not easy, but with the right care and “feeding,” they can grow your organization’s success exponentially. Partnerships in education are particularly beneficial and produce a win-win outcome, as businesses give back to their communities and students gain real-world training and potential employment opportunities.
Below are 5 key tips to keep in mind as you grow your network of partners.
Make sure you understand the commitment level of a potential partner. Setting expectations at the very beginning of a business partnership will ensure both parties that they will benefit from the relationship.
Make an Effort.
It is one thing to develop a partnership, but to maintain it successfully, you must make a noticeable effort. Partners are not solely there for when you “need” something. Making plans to attend community events (chamber of commerce meetings, etc.) to meet local business and community leaders is one great way to show that you are invested.
It should be made entirely clear to all parties what the purpose and overarching goals of the partnership is – there must be a strategic fit between them. Start this process by surveying students, teachers and administrators to garner feedback on your school’s needs and how a business partner can help. Then, develop a benefits/value position check list detailing their benefits from a partnership with your school (workforce-ready students, dedicated staff, program alignment with industry, etc.). Once they say “YES,” draft a Partnership Agreement with clearly defined goals and expectations to be reviewed and evaluated annually. Include all that apply – internships, externships (for teachers), guest speakers, career fair participants, mentoring, tutoring – and listen to what the business may want and add to the list.
Not all businesses will be a good fit. If a business’ values and needs don’t align with your school’s, remember that it’s OK to step away and keep looking.
Create a method for communication so that each party is motivated to share input. Check in often by sending newsletters, e-blasts and emails and let them know how things are going. It is also important to be honest about the things that turn out well and the things that could be improved. Discuss your mistakes so that both parties may learn from them and find resolutions to move forward successfully.
Having a network of business partners can be a great way to grow if roles are clearly defined, both are committed and communication flows both ways. You need complementary values, overarching goals and strengths to make it work, but the benefits are endless.